The trap set by Hamas in Gaza has been triggered once before and could be activated again, because a massive military action in the Strip presents very high risks, to civilian populations, to military personnel and to hostages. Israeli and international experts are convinced of this.
As emphasized by Sami Cohen, a professor at Science Po in Paris and author of many books on the Middle East and Israel, there has been a failure at two levels, one of intelligence, the other political, largely attributable to Netanyahu. Cohen is very clear: the internal security services, the Shabak, were well-informed about what was happening in Gaza until some time ago, but in recent years, they have neglected internal sources within Hamas and relied on electronic surveillance and “walls.” A serious mistake.
According to Italian intelligence sources, Hamas in recent years has not only relied on weapons but also on training young militants in counter-information. Forget about the shabab throwing stones, practicing on the garbage mountains in Jabalya. In a few words, the militants had to make Israelis believe they were not the real target of Hamas but the Palestinian Authority of Abu Mazen in the West Bank, where the movement had won the elections in 2006, as well as in the Gaza Strip.
But the failure of intelligence was not accidental. These failures often result from a political and military narrative that distorts reality. Just think of the Yom Kippur War 50 years ago when the Israelis had all possible information — and even the collaboration of Ashraf Marwan, Nasser’s son-in-law, as a spy alongside Sadat — but according to the strategic narrative of the military leaders, they believed that Egypt was too weak to attack.
The trauma of 1973 is still very much alive, and the comparison with Yom Kippur is immediate because this attack came the day after the anniversary. However, this time Israel isn’t facing a regular army like Egypt’s of 50 years ago. It has to deal with groups of men willing to do anything, armed only with Kalashnikovs and rocket launchers, fighting a different type of war.
The country is in shock because the military and intelligence failure was enormous. Especially considering that the military intelligence organization known as “Unit 8200” monitors the lives of Palestinians, and Israel controls all landline and mobile phone networks, it is truly incredible that they did not realize they were organizing an assault of this magnitude.
In recent years, Netanyahu has insisted that Hamas posed no major threat to Israel and that it was not necessary to maintain a massive intelligence presence in Gaza. Netanyahu’s goal was to demonstrate to the international community that the Palestinians were no longer a problem for his “peace plans” because they were too weak and divided between Hamas and Al Fatah.
Netanyahu’s arrogance borders on criminal recklessness, according to the well-known Israeli journalist Merovon Rapoport (Local Call and the online magazine +972 Magazine) who stated in an interview with the Gariwo website: “The Israeli army was now almost entirely concentrated in the West Bank. To protect the settlers and settlements, 33 battalions had been deployed, while along the Gaza border, there were only three.”
It means that the soldiers’ level of training is no longer comparable to what it used to be because in the last 20 years, they have been mainly tasked with police duties, arresting children or stone throwers in the villages. They were therefore unprepared to face armed militants in an irregular conflict.
But the political aspect, in addition to the intelligence and security aspects, is the most pressing. Netanyahu’s government is dominated by religious extremists obsessed with Jewish settlements in the West Bank. And all this attention was his downfall: to stay in power, face legal troubles, and dictate the divisive campaign on justice, he needed the support of Smotrich and Ben Gvir, the two “hawks” of the far right, and this led him and the country towards the abyss of Gaza.
How to get out of it? A military conquest of Gaza by land would have a far-from-certain outcome, it would mean the death of tens of thousands of inhabitants, that of the hostages, and a serious refugee crisis. Hamas is not an army; they are decentralized formations, guerrilla and terrorism. Moreover, the risk of a large-scale regional war is now tangible, with the possible involvement of Hezbollah in Lebanon and even Syria.
So far, everything has held thanks to the pact between Russia and Israel, which allows the Jewish state to bomb Iranian Pasdaran in Syria, allies of Moscow and Assad, as everyone knows, from Tehran to Ankara. The only alternative to chaos is diplomacy, the resumption of negotiations for a Palestinian state without going through the false and now unlikely shortcuts of the Gulf monarchies. Otherwise, the second part of the trap will be triggered.
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